In a feature from THN’s annual Fantasy Guide, a slew of retired NHLers – including Jeff O’Neill, Matthew Barnaby, Kevin Weekes and Mike Johnson – offer their opinions on 20 crucial questions for fantasy hockey players.
Fantasy hockey aficionados always have tons of questions about the NHL. So do people who work in the industry. That includes former players who, in their post-career days, became media analysts. THN canvassed a half-dozen of them in the off-season to answer 20 questions on a variety of fantasy-related topics.
1. What do you prefer: a straight points fantasy league or a head-to-head fantasy league with different stat categories?
Jeff O’Neill, analyst, TSN: Different stat categories. So many ways a player can show his importance.
Jamie McLennan, analyst, TSN: Straight points league.
Matthew Barnaby, TV/Radio analyst: Points. I like playing players as a whole, not a different team each week.
Mike Johnson, analyst, Sportsnet: Straight points. Easier to manage and follow.
P.J. Stock, analyst, Sportsnet: Straight forward points. The fewer math calculations I have to do…
Kevin Weekes, analyst, NHL Network: Head-to-head. It gives the players a more realistic feel.
2. What’s the earliest fantasy round you’d draft a goalie in?
O’Neill: Fourth round. I want to load up on studs.
McLennan: First round. Goalies always draft other goalies.
Barnaby: I never take a goalie early. Always look at about my seventh pick.
Johnson: Eighth round. You can find value in the depth around the league.
Stock: Late rounds. They are all so good.
Weekes: No limits. If he’s an impact player, why wouldn’t you pick him early?
3. Who wins the 2014-15 Art Ross Trophy?
O’Neill: Sid. He’s the one player in the league that beat everyone by 20 or more points.
McLennan: Crosby. I see him looking for redemption for his playoff failure.
Barnaby: Crosby. Won by almost 20 points last year and has more to prove.
Johnson: Sidney Crosby.
Stock: Crosby. Did it on injury-plagued team & should have no problem repeating.
Weekes: Steven Stamkos.
4. Who will have more points in 2014-15: Jonathan Huberdeau or Aleksander Barkov?
O’Neill: Huberdeau. Barkov missed 28 games and sophomore slump could be looming.
McLennan: Barkov. He’s going to be a special player.
Barnaby: Huberdeau. Had a down year, but will respond with a strong year.
Johnson: Barkov. He’s only going to get better and will be involved in lots of plays.
Stock: Toss-up. Huberdeau for no reason other than you’re making me choose!
Weekes: Barkov. With his size and his position, he’ll have more opportunities.
5. Which Alberta team will finish higher in the standings?
O’Neill: Calgary. They work harder and Edmonton is simply too easy to play against.
Barnaby: Calgary. (Like asking which wounded chicken will cross road first in traffic.)
Johnson: Edmonton. Better goalies and will improve their defense.
Stock: Edmonton. Way too much talent to be where they are.
Weekes: Unless Oilers embark on a major makeover, I’d say the Flames.
6. Which breakout goalie from 2013-14 do you trust more: Ben Bishop or Semyon Varlamov?
O’Neill: Tough call, but Varlamov is the real deal. Bishop was outstanding but not as good.
McLennan: Varlamov. He has all the tools to be elite, continues to grow as starter.
Barnaby: Varlamov. I like the speed his team plays with and they are deeper.
Johnson: Varlamov. Athletic and plays on an up-and-coming team.
Stock: Varlamov because of his surroundings. Has great goalie coach in Allaire.
Weekes: I trust them both and don’t see either one dropping off.
7. How many games does Sidney Crosby play in 2014-15?
O’Neill: 75. Plays so hard that it’s tough to imagine he gets more.
McLennan: 75. He’s changed routes to/with puck, not putting himself in as bad of spots.
Barnaby: 76. Concussions are behind him, but he’ll have little bruises along the way.
Johnson: 75. No major injuries.
Stock: 70. He plays hard and his body takes a beating every year.
Weekes: I think Sid plays 79 games next year.
8. How many goals will Nathan MacKinnon score?
O’Neill: 35. That could be low. Skating, shot and linemates makes for a dangerous combo.
McLennan: 40. He’ll get more responsibility, and with that will come more opportunity.
Barnaby: 30. Sky is the limit for this kid. Will be a 40-goal man eventually.
Johnson: 34. Will continue his upward climb.
Stock: 35. I just love his compete and his release.
Weekes: I think he scores 35.
9. What goalie will surprise people in a positive way this season?
O’Neill: John Gibson. Has all the tools and confidence to be the guy for Anaheim.
McLennan: Holtby. Trotz and new goalie coach Korn could have positive effect on him.
Barnaby: Ryan Miller. Elite goalie who plays better with more shots.
Johnson: Braden Holtby. Part of a bounce-back team with Barry Trotz as coach.
Stock: Ben Bishop. He’ll have a better year next year.
Weekes: Jimmy Howard. He’ll be back to his close-to-all-star level.
10. What goalie will surprise people in a negative way this season?
O’Neill: Jaroslav Halak. Quality starter, not elite. Isles not exactly a defensive juggernaut.
McLennan: Ben Bishop was outstanding, but he’s not going to surprise anyone anymore.
Barnaby: Halak. Going to be a rude awakening for him on Long Island.
Johnson: Frederik Andersen. Anaheim is poised for a step back.
Stock: Ryan Miller. Way more critics now because of his time with St. Louis.
Weekes: Karri Ramo.
11. More points this year: Jonathan Drouin, Sam Bennett or Sam Reinhart?
O’Neill: Drouin. Probably could’ve played last year. May flank Steven Stamkos.
McLennan: Drouin. More mature from another year of junior, ready for regular NHL shift.
Barnaby: Drouin. Top end talent that’s more mature. Will get many opportunities.
Johnson: Drouin. He’s the only one likely to play in the NHL this year.
Stock: Drouin. In a great situation. Won’t hurt he’ll be passing it to Stamkos on PP.
Weekes: Drouin. Then Bennett, then Reinhart.
12. More points: Jaromir Jagr or Jarome Iginla?
O’Neill: Iginla. Don’t count out Jagr, but at age 42 there’s a danger of “one year too long.”
McLennan: Jarome Iginla. He’s younger and he’s in better shape.
Barnaby: Jagr. Still has size in PP-driven league. Can score 50 points till he’s 50.
Johnson: Jagr. He is just a point-producing machine.
Stock: Jagr. Never bet against Jagr.
Weekes: That’s a tough one. I’d say Iggy because of the guys he’s playing with.
13. More points: P.K. Subban or Shea Weber?
O’Neill: Subban. Just gets better every year and will be even more dominant this year.
McLennan: Weber. New coach Laviolette will have a positive effect on him and the team.
Barnaby: Weber. I love P.K., but Weber makes it look easy.
Johnson: Subban. No matter what he does, he will always get points.
Stock: Subban. Both have great shots. P.K. is surrounded with more offensive talent.
Weekes: All things being equal, I’d say Subban in a runaway.
14. What forward will surprise people in a positive way this season?
O’Neill: Mike Cammalleri. Such a gifted offensive player.
McLennan: Valeri Nichushkin. Has tools to be dominant force. Reminds me of Malkin.
Barnaby: Matt Moulson. Will be leaned on heavily in Buffalo in all offensive situations.
Johnson: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He will be healthy and much better.
Stock: Ryan Kesler. Stud. Change of scenery will bring big benefits to Ducks.
Weekes: If he continues playing as he did in the playoffs, Erik Haula of the Wild.
15. What forward will surprise people in a negative way this season?
O’Neill: Thomas Vanek. Inconsistent. He’ll get points, but look at his playoff performance.
McLennan: Stamkos. No St-Louis passing to him, production could drop.
Barnaby: Kyle Okposo. More of a 0.6 per game player than a 1.0 per game player.
Johnson: Marty St-Louis. He will finally slow down.
Stock: Jordan Eberle. Game isn’t improving enough. Needs more fight.
Weekes: Max Pacioretty. I don’t know if he scores 39 goals again.
16. Who will be the first coach fired in 2014-15?
O’Neill: Capuano/Carlyle/Eakins. All must show early their teams are better than ’13-14.
McLennan: Jack Capuano. Could be a casualty of some years of thin play and talent pool.
Barnaby: Paul MacLean. He is in a tough spot and the Sens will struggle to defend.
Johnson: If the Leafs get off to a slow start, Randy Carlyle.
Stock: Hate this question, but have to go with Carlyle if Leafs have poor start.
Weekes: Randy Carlyle.
17. What defenseman will surprise people in a positive way this season?
O’Neill: Christian Ehrhoff. He’ll be with talented people in Pittsburgh who make plays.
McLennan: Alex Edler. He’ll be a force. Injuries and inconsistency hurt him last season.
Barnaby: Drew Doughty. 30th in ‘D’ scoring last year, but will feed off great playoffs.
Johnson: Mike Green will have a bounce-back year.
Stock: Darnell Nurse. Loved him in junior.
Weekes: Tyson Barrie. He’s got ice water in his veins, and he’s very competitive.
18. What defenseman will surprise people in a negative way this season?
O’Neill: Dion Phaneuf. Tries to do too much and gets caught out of position.
McLennan: Zdeno Chara. May show age, possible step back in production. Still great.
Barnaby: James Wisniewski. Equalled career-high 51points, more of a 30-point guy.
Johnson: Mark Giordano won’t be able to maintain Norris Trophy-caliber form.
Stock: Erik Karlsson. Great offense, but points mean zero if you miss playoffs.
Weekes: Brooks Orpik. People will see money he signed for and expect a lot.
19. How many Canadian teams make the playoffs in 2014-15?
O’Neill: Two. Montreal and Toronto. No Canadian teams in the west are going anywhere.
McLennan: Three – there’ll be some bounce-back years from some organizations.
Barnaby: Two. I believe Vancouver makes it as well as Montreal.
Johnson: Three: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
Stock: Two: Leafs and Habs.
Weekes: Two: Montreal and Toronto.
20. Who beats who in the Stanley Cup final?
O’Neill: Chicago beats Philly in six.
McLennan: Boston over Chicago in six.
Barnaby: St. Louis over Boston in seven.
Johnson: Chicago over Tampa Bay in five.
Stock: Boston over Los Angeles in seven.
Weekes: L.A. over Boston in seven.
This article originally appeared in THN’s 2014-15 Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide. Pick it up at your local newsstand or online.